Think HBR

Indigenous archaeology made simple

Penny McCardle
McCardle Cultural Heritage
Aboriginal Cultural Heritage should be taken into consideration in the early stage of any proposed development as it can be complex and the legislative requirements time consuming.
The two main legislative acts that come into play are:
1. NPW Act 1974 (including National Parks and Wildlife
Regulation 2009)
2. Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979
Within the NPWS Act, there are a number of additional requirements falling under The Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), including:
Archaeological Due Diligence Assessment
The purpose of a due diligence assessment is to assist proponents to exercise due diligence when carrying out activities that may harm Aboriginal objects or Aboriginal places and to determine whether they should apply for a consent to harm Aboriginal objects or Places through an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Assessment (AHIP).
The due diligence assessment demonstrates that all reasonable and practicable measures have been undertaken to prevent harm to any Aboriginal objects and/or place within a project area. If no archaeological sites or Potential Archaeological Deposits (PADs) are identified, no further archaeological assessments are required.
This also means that consultation with the Aboriginal community is not legally required.
However, if a site of unknown extent and nature or PAD are identified, further archaeological works may be necessary and consultation with the Aboriginal community is a requirement.
Aboriginal Heritage Impact Assessment
This is the same as above but with the inclusion of the consultation process from the beginning. It is undertaken if sites and/or PADs are known to be within the project area or there is a high likelihood of them being present and an AHIP may be required. The field work is undertaken with representatives of the registered Aboriginal parties (RAPs) present.
This process takes approximately 13 weeks to complete.
Aboriginal Heritage Impact Assessment: Test Excavation
The consultation steps required before a test excavation begins will typically take two months. The length of time depends mainly on the size of the PAD and/or site and the depth of the deposits. Depending on the results of the test excavation, if a site is found, and/or any previous sites are found to be of low significance and/ or highly disturbed and will be impacted on by the development, an AHIP may be required. Consultation continues from this stage into the next. Again, depending on the test excavation size and results this process can take from 5 weeks to months.
Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit (AHIP)
An AHIP is a legal document that grants permission to harm Aboriginal objects or declared Aboriginal places, and sets out any conditions that must be complied with. An AHIP is required if a proposed activity will directly, or indirectly, harm an Aboriginal object, or a declared Aboriginal place.
An AHIP Application is prepared and submitted to OEH and depending on the size of the application, number of sites, and any methods of salvage excavation and/or collection, may take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
On receipt of an AHIP salvage of the sites commences in consultation with all parties. Once this is complete a final report is prepared by the archaeologist, and there are typically no further archaeological constraints. This final step can take anywhere from 5 weeks to months.
As you can see, this can be a lengthy process. It may seem daunting, however there is a process that is followed and any qualified archaeologist should answer any questions you may have, no matter how insignificant you think they may be.
Please note: This article has been simplified to provide a general overview only and detailed information may be obtained from OEH or your local archaeologist.
For further information contact McCardle Cultural Heritage on 0412 702 396 email or visit
MCCARDLE Penny McCardle
is the Principal Archaeologist & Forensic Anthropologist at McCardle Cultural Heritage. She is qualified in both indigenous archaeology and forensic anthropology. Penny has over 15 year’s practical experience in all types of indigenous archaeological, legislative requirements and skeletal identification (Aboriginal, non-Aboriginal, animal).